Cora Bond Morrison did not have an easy childhood in northeastern North Carolina. Like many who grew up during the Great Depression, the Bond family took extra steps to make ends meet, turning their East King Street home in Edenton into a boarding house during the 1920s and 30s.
Cora was very bright and a good student. Despite the family’s financial struggles, she went to college during an era when women weren’t expected to pursue higher education. She attended Mary Washington College (now University) in Fredericksburg, VA and graduated from East Carolina Teacher’s College, now East Carolina University in Greenville. She taught high school for several years, both in Sanford and Wilson, where she met and married Brame Morrison, a man several years her senior, who was a local pharmacist with his own drug store.
While Cora had a reputation as a demanding teacher, she was much beloved by her students. “She was a sweet person who had a good heart,” said Katherine Batten in a September Wilson Times interview. Batten was her student during her last year of teaching business classes in 1958 in Wilson.
Although Cora quit teaching to raise her family, she never stopped being a teacher. Her zest for learning was passed on to her children, son Perry Morrison and daughter Harriett Morrison Loweth. She shared with them her love of books and music, instilling an appreciation for the arts and life-long learning.
Perry and Harriett also learned from their parents’ love of church and community. Mr. and Mrs. Morrison were both involved with the local chapter of the American Heart Association and served many civic and charitable organizations. The family was extremely active with the First Presbyterian Church in Wilson. Perry said that their folks “made sure we were at church every time the door was open.”
By the time the Morrison siblings reached college age in the 1970s, the economy was at another low point. Family finances meant that paying tuition would be tough. Their mother’s insistence on academic excellence meant that both were eligible for scholarships, which helped to pave the way. Both attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Harriett, as valedictorian of her high school class, received a full ride, and Perry received a partial scholarship and held outside jobs. The brother and sister not only earned undergraduate degrees, but also went on to complete graduate work. Harriet received an MBA, and Perry graduated from law school.
When Cora Morrison passed away in August of 2009, Perry and Harriett knew that one of the best ways to honor their mom was to establish a scholarship in her name. Education was one of her passions. Receiving scholarships had meant a great deal to their own completion of college. And the entire family’s dedication to the First Presbyterian Church prompted them to want to give back to the congregation that had been such an important part of their lives.
The Cora B. Morrison Scholarship was established last year with the North Carolina Community Foundation. The scholarship will be awarded to deserving members of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilson. While begun with the customary $25,000 minimum, the fund has nearly doubled in a year’s time, thanks to the consistent addition of many small gifts and the family’s pledge to match up to $50,000.
The attorney in Perry knew that endowment giving was a strategic way to leverage the fund and ensure it would continue to exist in perpetuity. “Cora Bond Morrison believed strongly in higher education and had a great love for her church,” he said. “In creating this endowment, our family could think of no better way of ensuring that these core principles and her legacy would endure and have a continuing impact on generations yet to come.”
The endowment will award its first scholarship this spring. The family’s goal is to grow the fund to $100,000. Contributions are tax-deductible and should be made payable to the Cora B. Morrison Scholarship and sent to the NCCF at 4601 Six Forks Road, Suite 524, Raleigh, NC 27609. Contributions also can be made online. For further information, contact Kelly Lee, NCCF regional associate, at 252-245-1794 or call the NCCF headquarters office in Raleigh at 919-828-4387.